Wednesday, August 18, 2010

old and new covenants

Good morning everyone,
Today's reading is a challenging one, so we'll unpack it a bit; it might be easiest to read this paragraph by paragraph along with my notes. The opening paragraph talks about blazing fire and a voice the people couldn't bear to hear. This refers to Exodus 19, when the Law was revealed to Moses and the people of Israel at Mt. Sinai. God appeared to the people then like a lightning storm on top of the mountain. The whole mountain was declared holy so none of the people or animals could touch it, and the voice from heaven was powerful and terrifying. This is a reminder of how far above us God is.

The author of Hebrews doesn't bring us back to Mt. Sinai, but instead reminds us that in Jesus we come to the heavenly Jerusalem where we come to God instead of facing the separation our sin has meant in the past. In the Holy City we see the righteous people who went before us made perfect by Christ. Here we find a new covenant, not the Law of Moses, but the love of Jesus and the fellowship with God in his blood. That blood speaks a better word than Abel's because Abel's blood cried out Cain's guilt to God, but Christ's blood makes us innocent in God's eyes.

Even though the new covenant means we can come close to God, this covenant is still a call and a demand. The power of God speaking is still disturbing and we know one day the heavens and the earth will be made new by that word. Our calling is to listen for God's word, to worship faithfully and to live in love with God and with our neighbors. The command to love comes from God directly, so let us hear with grateful ears and follow our calling joyfully.

God bless,

Hebrews 12:18-29
18You have not come to something that can be touched, a blazing fire, and darkness, and gloom, and a tempest, 19and the sound of a trumpet, and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that not another word be spoken to them. 20(For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even an animal touches the mountain, it shall be stoned to death.” 21Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.”) 2

2But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

25See that you do not refuse the one who is speaking; for if they did not escape when they refused the one who warned them on earth, how much less will we escape if we reject the one who warns from heaven! 26At that time his voice shook the earth; but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heaven.” 27This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of what is shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain. 28Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe; 29for indeed our God is a consuming fire.

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